, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 263-266

Concept of virus species

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The species concept is applicable in virology because viruses have genomes, replicate, evolve, and occupy particular ecological niches. The following definition of virus species was accepted in 1991 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses: ‘A virus species is a polythetic class of viruses that constitutes a replicating lineage and occupies a particular ecological niche’. This definition does not provide a list of diagnostic properties for recognizing members of particular virus species. Furthermore, since a virus species is a polythetic class, it is impossible to use a single property such as a certain level of genome homology as defining property of the species. The implications of this new definition of virus species for future virus classification are discussed.